My neck muscles creaked in protest as I turned to face whoever (or whatever) it was that had been laying in wait for me. I’m embarrassed to admit that notions such as vampire and zombie crossed my mind in that moment. After the craziness of the previous twenty-four hours, it felt like nothing was impossible anymore.
But I was spooking myself for nothing. There, in the window seat, sitting with feet curled under her and gazing out at the moonlit garden, was a girl. Just a normal girl – about my age by the look of her. No rotting flesh, no fangs. Which was slightly reassuring, but the question still remained – who was she and what the hell was she doing in my room? I’d certainly never seen her before and I was pretty certain she wasn’t a friend of Lucy or Bell’s –even if she was, that still didn’t explain what she was doing up here. My relief was rapidly turning to annoyance.
“Excuse me – who are you? What are you doing in here?”
The girl almost leapt out of the seat in surprise and whirled towards me, clamping her hand to her mouth. This was not the reaction I was expecting. She was acting like she was surprised to see me. Her wide eyes never leaving my face, the girl lowered her hand from her mouth where a small tentative smile was forming at the corner of her lips
“Evie? Did you just speak to me? Can you see me?”
“Of course I can see you. Look – who the hell are you? What are you doing in my room?”
Then it struck me. She had called me by name. I may not know her, but apparently she knew me.
“How do you know my name?” I asked slowly, unease creeping up on me again.
A beaming smile split her face and she clapped her hands together in delight.
“You really can see me – oh Evie – I never thought you would again!”she gasped.
“Look – I’m sorry – but I have no idea who you are. And I don’t understand why you think I wouldn’t be able to see you when you’re standing bold as brass in the middle of my bedroom…..”
But as I said it a cold chill crept over my skin; I began to have a sneaking suspicion that I did know exactly why she thought I may not be able to see her, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it out loud. What would be the right words if I did? If you don’t mind me asking – are you dead? Are you on a visit from the other side? Not really something you can just drop into conversation is it?
The girl was watching me expectantly, as if she understood that I was trying to piece things together and was waiting for my conclusion with bated breath.
I met her eyes and surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid. It was kind of hard to be afraid of someone who was not only completely unthreatening but who also seemed to be over the moon to see me.
I knew that we couldn’t stand there gawping at each other indefinitely, so I took a deep breath and tried to vocalise just one of the crazy questions that stampeded through my brain.
“Are you – are you a…….”
I faltered. I just didn’t know what word to use. Was there such a thing as supernatural political correctness? Would certain terminology cause offence?
The girl saw me struggling and saved me by nodding slowly.
“Yes, Evie – what you’re thinking is right. I understand – you don’t know what to call me. So maybe it would just be easier for you to call me by my name. Which is Esther. You used to know that.” she sighed sadly.
“What do you mean – I used to know your name? We’ve never met. Have we?”
“When you were a young child, you saw me all the time. I’d play games with you, watch you as you slept, tell you stories. You were like the child that I was never to have.”
“I – I don’t remember”. I felt cruel saying it to her.
“I know. It’s not your fault.” she shrugged. “You grew up, that’s all. Gradually you saw me less and less. But then that may have been because you stopped looking. And then one day, you just couldn’t see me at all. I thought it must have been that as you got older, you lost your childish open mindedness that had allowed you to see me in the first place. Or perhaps you just didn’t need me anymore.”
“But now I can see you again” I said slowly, pondering what that might mean.
“Yes – now you can see me again” Esther couldn’t hide the pleasure that this gave her.
“But why are you here? I mean – why in this house? Did it mean something to you?”
“This was my home, Evie. This room was my room”
“ When was this your room? How old are you?”
Esther gave a little laugh “That’s not a straightforward question. Well – I was born in 1921. And I was nearly ninteen when I – passed.”
What had happened to Esther to end her life at eighteen – just a year older than I was now, I wondered. I wanted to ask, but she didn’t volunteer the information so I didn’t press her for it. Somehow it just seemed – I don’t know – rude. Tactless.
Now I was feeling slightly calmer, I began to notice more about Esther’s appearance. Her dark hair was shoulder length and fell in soft waves around her face, held in place by a small flower pin. She wore a soft powder blue twinset which matched her eyes and her skin was perfect pale china. Even if she was a ghost, she was a very pretty one. An English rose, Gran would have said.
If Esther was aware of my scrutiny, it didn’t seem to bother her.
“Am I not what you imagined a – someone like me – to be?” she asked.
“It’s not something I gave too much thought to until yesterday”
“Not all of them are like me”
“What do you mean – them?”
“I’m not alone – there are many many more..” she broke off, seeing the horrified look on my face.“Perhaps this is a conversation for another time – you already have so much to absorb”
I nodded, grateful for her understanding. I really didn’t think I could take any more of these revelations tonight.
“You’re right. I need to sleep. Maybe this will all make a bit more sense to me in the morning.”
Yes, tomorrow. Tomorrow I would see Seth. Tomorrow I would visit Gran. Tomorrow would be a normal day when I would do normal things. Get all of this into perspective.
“Going to see your Gran would be a good idea, Evie. You can confide in her. She knows about these things” Esther said, as if she had peeked inside my head. Maybe she had – what did I know?
“How do you know Gran?”
“She sees us too, Evie. She could always see me, long after you couldn’t anymore.”
“Gran? You can’t be serious”
But her face told me that she was. My head was spinning. I was suddenly exhausted, the burden of all this information too much for me to bear.
“I don’t mean to be rude Esther, but I’ve had about as much as I can take for one day. I’m going to bed. Assuming that you’re not just a figment of my imagination, I guess I’ll see you in the morning”.
I crawled under my duvet, flicked off the light, and turned my back on her. It wasn’t her fault, but at that precise moment I literally did want to turn my back on her and all the craziness she represented.
As I lay there waiting to escape into what I hoped would be a dreamless sleep, I remembered something she had said – about watching over me.
“Esther – are you still there?”
“I’m here” she replied in the darkness.
“Earlier on – when I was sleeping, I had a nightmare. Someone stroked my head, whispered to me. I thought it was Mum – but it wasn’t , was it? It was you”.
There was a brief silence before she answered.
“Yes it was, Evie. I’ve always watched over you. Do you mind very much?”
I felt like I should mind – that would be the natural reaction to a virtual stranger hanging about in my room and spying on me – but how could I mind that someone cared about me, that I had continued to matter to them even after I had apparently forgotten their existence?
“No Esther, I don’t mind”
I have no doubt she watched over me that night too, as she had so many others, but I couldn’t say for sure. I was lost in mercifully dreamless sleep.
Click below for Chapter 5